Mandarin competition aims to boost language learning in schools

HSBC predicts that China will become the world’s largest economy by 2050 but the number of students taking a GCSE in Mandarin remains frustratingly small.

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Official statistics show that only 3,132 students took a GCSE in Mandarin Chinese last year in comparison to 168,402 who took French and 93,028 students who took Spanish. The British Council’s Languages for the Future report in 2013 also showed that only 1 per cent of UK adults can speak Chinese.“For the UK to continue to prosper in the global marketplace, we need more of our young people to develop their language skills to work confidently around the world and in multinational organisations here in the UK,” said Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council.  “With China now the world’s second biggest economy, a good understanding of Chinese language and culture will give young people the advantage they need to live in a global society and compete in a global economy.”To address the language learning shortfall, the British Council and HSBC have joined forces to run a nationwide competition aiming to encourage greater interest in Chinese language and culture.Now in its twelfth year, the national competition is aimed at students who are non-native speakers, who have started learning Mandarin Chinese recently.Regional heats were held in London and Newcastle in December 2014, with the best making it through to the final at the British Museum in London. The youngsters come from 35 secondary schools across the country – from Brighton to Glasgow to Flintshire in North Wales.As part of their prize, the ten winners will scale China’s Great Wall, explore Beijing's Forbidden City, and enjoy cultural activities with Chinese students at local schools.“The competition highlights the importance of cross-cultural understanding,” said Lorraine Thomas, Senior Manager Global Education and UK Community Investment at HSBC, “and gives young people from the UK an opportunity to develop and improve their language skills. We are delighted to continue supporting the competition and encouraging young people to learn about China.”

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